How Long Should Your Video Be?

Your Video Should be Short!

In the world of online and digital video, “short” means up to two minutes in length.  Videos of up to two minutes long hold a viewer’s attention. After two minutes there is a substantial drop-off. It may sound harsh but after two minutes no one is really watching your video – your engagement rate has plummeted and your message isn’t being heard.

See for Yourself Where the Drop Off Occurs.

Host your organization’s videos on even the most basic video hosting platform and you’ll see how long individuals are watching and where they drop off. It’s easy to read the graphs.  And to repeat and summarize: people drop off considerably after the two-minute mark.

How Do You Keep Your Video Message Short?

Video is Just One Tool in your Tool Belt.

Remember you have your website, and other supporting materials like blogs, white papers, e-books and presentations all working to get your message across. What is the most critical information to put in the video? What messages can your other marketing resources cover? Often a video is embedded on a webpage. What information is on that webpage? Does it support or add to the content of the video?

What Video Message Will Compel Viewers to Take the Next Step?

Be sure to know what you want your audience to do after they watch the video. Have in mind the one takeaway or next step action. Do you want viewers to fill out a form, book a free demo, sign up for a free trial, contact a sales rep, download a white paper, click and watch another video? All content in the video should support the key point and the desired call-to-action for viewers.

When you have a clear video goal it’s easier to keep your message short.  Include only the information that supports the goal of the video.

People Buy Benefits Not Features.

Your audience is looking for solutions to their problems not a list of features. Lists can be long, boring and take up a lot of time. So when time is short talk about the benefits of your offering. Don’t rhyme off as many features as possible. Choose the most compelling feature(s) and be sure to show how those deliver real benefits to your audience. Whatever you include should be shown to solve your viewers’ most pressing problems.

No One Likes a Fast Talker.

Don’t think that a fast-talking narrator is a clever way to include more information in your video. It’s not. Talking too fast can suggest nervousness and be difficult to understand. Timing visual images to a fast talker can look rushed and unnatural. Typically, a normal and natural conversation rate is around 2.3 words per second or 120 – 140 words per minute. So for a one to two-minute video you have 120 – 240 words to work with.  

Remember the Sales Funnel.

How far along in the sales process is your target audience likely to be when they watch the video? How much prior knowledge of your offering do you expect them to have? Include information geared only toward where your target viewer is in the sales funnel.

Is Your Video for Social Media?

To best craft your message, identify the platform where you expect the viewer to watch the video. Be aware of the ideal length for each platform. Instagram videos are usually super short: up to 30 seconds; Twitter videos: up to 45 seconds and Facebook videos up to 60 seconds.

Shorter Can Cost Less.

The run-time of a video factors into the price of a video. Shorter videos often cost less and you’re likely only paying for what people watch. Over two minutes in duration and you are paying to produce content your viewers won’t likely view.

Shorter Videos Are Faster to Produce.

Need your video for a fast approaching deadline? Producing a video that’s 30 seconds often takes less time than producing a video that’s two minutes. In the case of custom animated videos, the actual time spent animating the visuals is reduced substantially, taking days off the production schedule.

Consider a Video Series Instead of a “Too Long” Video.

Make 2 or 3 short videos instead of an overly long video. A 60-second landing page video paired with one or two 60 – 90-second videos that offer a deeper dive into specific topics is a whole lot more effective than one 3 minute video trying to cover multiple topics.

Have your videos play as a series. It’s not difficult to get videos to load one after the other if viewers are still interested and given a call-to-action to watch and learn more.

Videos of Any Length that Load Slowly Do Not Get Watched.

Besides “make your video less than two minutes”, this might be the most important takeaway: viewers do not wait around for videos to load. If a video doesn’t load 

quickly it won’t get watched.  Make sure everything at your organization’s end is in place to guarantee videos load quickly.  Then viewers won’t wander away before your message begins playing.

Know the Age of Your Target Audience.

We’re beginning to see evidence that differently aged audiences may watch for differing amounts of time. Not unsurprisingly, Millennials seem to prefer shorter videos and love mobile video. Older viewers ages 35 – 54 are fine with longer form videos and aren’t as picky regarding the screen they watch on.

It’s Not Just Length – The Role of Repeated Viewings.

This point speaks more to deciding how and where to use your video than video length.  But studies have suggested that if you are using video for sales, your video will be more impactful the more times a viewer watches it.

Have the Discipline to Create a Short Message.

Because attention spans aren’t what they used to be it’s in any organization’s best interest to be sure they have succinct messaging video or no video. Your organization likely has an elevator pitch so you have experience thinking in terms of a short and sweet statement of what you do.

Now do that for each of and every one of the offerings you are making a video for. Under two minutes is your goal. If you have five minutes worth of what you consider “key” content floating around viewers won’t be around to watch it all and walk away with an incomplete and often flawed understanding of what you do.

But I Really Do Need A Longer Video!

There are Key Exceptions to the “Up to Two Minute” Rule.

Here are some situations where longer than 2 minutes might be something to consider:

  • A sales person playing a video during an in-person meeting with a customer.  
  • A facilitator running a video for an audience at a training or onboarding event.
  • An internal video shown to an entire organization at one time or another.
  • A video offered online that is monitored remotely. Watching the video in its entirety is a requirement for a job or certification etc.
  • Step-by-step demo videos. (These can often be boring and result in large drop off rates after 2 minutes as with most videos.)

What all the “longer than 2-minute video” scenarios share is a captive audience. It’s likely the audience can’t turn off or walk away from watching the video. They will watch to the end because they don’t have a choice.  

No Excuses. Get Short.

Hopefully, you’re now done with creating “excuses” as to why your organization warrants a video longer than two minutes. Instead, take the time, distill your messaging down and make a great video where everything you say is heard, understood and acted upon. It’s a powerful strategic exercise for any organization to successfully hone it’s message down to two minutes or less.     


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